We have recently completed a service evaluation of Shift.ms, an online social network for young people with multiple sclerosis.
Shift.ms is a web-based charity and social network for people affected by Multiple Sclerosis (MS), focussing on the needs of younger people with MS and those recently diagnosed with the condition. The website launched in 2009 and now has over 5000 members.
Our evaluation aimed to investigate the workings of the site to establish the impacts that using shift.ms has on its members as well as how these impacts are brought about and for whom particularly. The research team adopted a mix-methods approach combining four key elements:
- A scoping phase comprised of a brief scan of literature;
- Stakeholder interviews and a ‘Theory of Change’ session with members and relevant professionals;
- An online survey of Shift.ms users (completed by 357 people);
- Qualitative in-depth interviews conducted over the telephone with 8 members: And a validation workshop with staff and stakeholders.
Responses to the online survey indicate that the profile of Shift.ms members is younger and more recently diagnosed than the population with MS as a whole. The research found that members of Shift.ms gain a diverse range of benefits from using the shift.ms, with just under 90% of survey respondents reported deriving some kind of benefit from using the site: 80% reported feeling better informed through the use of shift.ms. 70% reported a social or emotional benefit; just under 60% reported improvements in health related behaviours and just under 75% reported shift.ms as having had a beneficial impact on coping with their condition or getting on with their lives. The survey also showed that around 40% of respondents found that using shift.ms had helped them come to terms with having MS.
While most users reported at least some benefits from using the site, within the overall population there are group of members that reported taking a more substantial range and depth of benefit. These comprised those who joined Shift.ms shortly after diagnosis with MS; younger members; regular user and members that reported making friends through the site.
The central features of Shift.ms that emerged as bringing about these impacts are the site’s community and the emphasis on peer to peer learning. Underpinning these are Shift.ms’s focus on; a narrower target group of users (young people with MS); The accessible and friendly tone and appearance of the site: and the a fact that shift.ms itself does not provide large amounts of information to its members instead leaving it to members to share their own knowledge.
‘We are so impressed with all the work that you and the team have put in. The evaluation is already having a significant impact on our decision making as an organisation as we all feel far better informed as to how and why people use the Shift.ms service. The report contains such a high number of valuable insights.’
(George Pepper, Shift.ms)
You can find out about Shift.ms on their website. The full report will follow soon.
For further information contact: Matt Gieve